Why the Pelicans can make the play-in without Zion Williamson

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Devonte' Graham, New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte’ Graham (4) Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans got more bad news about Zion Williamson and his injured foot, and it now seems unlikely that the star will return this season.

Zion apparently got an injection in his injured foot and is going to be evaluated again in at least a month:

This isn’t totally surprising, as there has been no indication that Zion Williamson is healing, and we’ve not seen much of him since that ill-fated media day where he and David Griffin said Zion would be back for the start of the season.

Apparently they meant next season.

But the New Orleans Pelicans still have to play out their schedule, and there is still a chance to salvage this season even without their best player.

I actually think the Pelicans have a good chance to make the play-in tournament anyway and there are some solid reasons why.

New Orleans Pelicans schedule and the garbage Western Conference

The Pelicans currently have the 3rd most-difficult strength of schedule remaining in the NBA, which might make it seem like they have no chance.

This can change quickly, as just two weeks ago the Pels had the 25th most-difficult schedule. The change mostly came because the Utah Jazz have won eight in a row to propel themselves into the 3rd seed and separate themselves from the rest of the West.

The Warriors, Suns and Jazz have pulled away from the pack and the Pels have seven remaining games combined with those three teams, which is why the Pelicans’ SoS went from 25th to 3rd in two weeks.

However, the rest of the West is pretty much equal, with the Grizzlies and Clippers (two teams the Pelicans have already beaten this season) in the four and five seed, so other than the top-3, no one else is really secure in their spot.

The teams directly in front of the Pelicans are all terrible and they are now only 3.5 games behind the Kings for the 10th and final play-in spot.

In between them are the Rockets, Spurs and Trail Blazers, so it is not like the Pelicans have to chase down a bunch of good teams. A three or four game winning streak would probably propel them into the 10th spot, so this season is far from over.

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